Bicycle Safety a Grown-Up Matter Too
You have one. And you are not alone. Yours might be red or green or sky-blue. It could be tricked out, every bell and extra whistle. Or it could be old-school. Even mention of a Schwinn has you comfortably living in the past, and pedaling in the here and now.
Bicycles are no longer just a toy. When Baby Boomers started hitting age 50 in the mid-1990s, they rediscovered the joys and benefits of cycling, and the trend has yet to step on the brakes. Instead of riding your bike to school, you pedal it to work. In lieu of being a three-times-a-week softball player, you take your wheels for a spin, be it around Altoona, Johnstown, or Pittsburgh and its suburbs, or even further west on trails dotting the Alleghenies.
Your doctor marvels at your blood pressure. You take secret pride in your quads and calves.
But there is a catch.
The more bikes out there, the more the accidents.
According to the Governors Highway Safety Association, a coalition of state roadway safety officers, 88 percent of bicyclists killed in motor vehicle crashes in 2015 were adults, with an average age of 45.
Buy a Helmet, Pay Attention
The most common causes of fatal bicycle accidents include:
- Not wearing a helmet - this was true for more than half of the victims)
- Distracted driving
- Intentional aggressive behavior, also known as road rage
- A driver or passenger opening a car door into the path of an on-coming cyclist (informally called a "dooring")
- Poor infrastructure, such as badly maintained road services
- Rider error
- Collision with a dog or other animal
- Crashes or collisions with a fixed object
The GHSA estimates that 45,000 cyclists were injured in crashes with automobiles. Head, arm and leg injuries were the main reasons for emergency room trips.
According to the most recent Pennsylvania Department of Transportation report, there were 1,272 bicycle accidents in 2015, resulting in 1,268 injuries, including 16 deaths. Cyclists between the ages of 45 and 64 accounted for half the deaths.
Because of cyclists' minimal body protection and the speed often involved in accidents, potential injuries can be serious, including broken bones, muscle injuries, spinal injuries and traumatic brain injuries. These crashes can have a massive long-term impact on the cyclist's quality of life.
Looking Both Ways Still Applies
Intersections, according to the PennDOT, are of particular danger, with almost 61 percent of the cycling injuries occurring there. But cyclists can also be injured by the crumbling and pockmarked conditions of roadways, parking lots or sidewalks.
Helmets and being alert are the best safety precautions while riding, but cyclists can only take care of themselves. Motorists have a responsibility to share the road with bicycles and other vulnerable road users. When they fail in that responsibility, people get hurt.
Adults in Pennsylvania have two years from the date of the accident to file a claim for their injuries. These are complex cases often involving significant compensation, and strong legal representation is needed to protect your rights. We can help.